Sinhala colonisation threatens Muslims

[TamilNet, Saturday, 08 November 1997, 23:59 GMT]
Irakkamam, an old Muslim settlement in the Ampara district is threatened with Sinhala colonisation backed by the Sri Lankan army which has been encroaching into its environs since 1990. Several community leaders and educated youth of the village have spoken against this and written to the Tamil press about the imminent danger they face from Singha Gama - the Sinhala settlement that has sprung up nearby in recent years.

About twenty thousand Muslims who are mostly paddy farmers live here. Irakkamam lies five miles south east of the Ampara town. An extension of this large village was the eighth mile post settlement.

The army moved here in late 1990 to attack the Liberation Tigers who had a camp in Irakkamam at that time. The SLA then stayed on permanently at the eighth mile post and created a Sinhala settlement in the area.

An order was issued by the army that this Sinhala colony should be called 'Singha Gama (Lion village). Muslims who referred to the colony as the eighth mile post when speaking to the local army have been assaulted.

Sinhalese have also been settled at the nearby 'Irrigation Junction' where Muslims own several thousand acres of fertile paddy and a few hundred acres of sugar cane.

A sugar factory was established in the late fifties in the Irakkamam area. Later a large number of Sinhalese were brought under various pretexts and settled around the Sugar factory. In the eighties this settlement became the Sinhala village of Hingurana and was officially recognised by the government.

Similarly the controversial Digavapi was also brought into existence by the state initially to saturate the management of the large tile factory at Irakkamam. This Sinhala settlement which was established with state aid one mile from the Irakkamam tile factory was named after a Sinhala historical site called Digavapi.

The Buddhist clergy launched an agitation in the early eighties demanding that thousands of acres of fertile paddies surrounding this pseudo-Digavapi which traditionally belonged to the Muslims should be declared by the government as sacred area and be taken over.

Muslim politicians in the east were able to do little to prevent the Bikkhus having their way in the matter. The Muslims of Irakkamam say that the SLMC has compromised their future with the PA to keep its positions in the cabinet secure.

They say Muslim MP Ashraff continues to ignore several appeals made by them about the menace of the army backed Sinhala village of Singha Gama.


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